Friday Night Protest Holds One Year Memorial Event

Brynn Fitzsimmons

6/4/2021- Kansas City, Missouri

People kneeling and holding a banner with the names of victims of police shootings in front of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department at the one year anniversary of Friday Night Protest.

Photo by Andrei Stoica

On Friday, June 4, at 6 p.m., the leaders of the Friday Night Protest held a one year memorial event to honor the lives of over 150 people who have been killed by Kansas City Police Department Officers. The event also commemorated a year since the protest--which has met weekly outside KCPD Headquarters--has been going.

Steve Young and Winifred Jamieson, the leaders of the Friday Night Protest, have stated that their protest aims to hold space for victims of KCPD officer violence, “saying the names of the local victims of police violence,” as Young said on Friday. They have also demanded the removal of Chief Rick Smith, greater accountability for officers and the defunding of KCPD.

Friday’s event included speeches from the families of a number of people who were killed by KCPD officers.

Cameron Lamb

One of Cameron Lamb’s sisters, who did not share her name, said she felt it was important to talk about her brother as a person expressly because who he was as a person is often glossed over:

“I would just like to talk about (Cameron) as a person because I feel like since all of this happened, a lot of the things that have been in the media haven't really reflected him in a good light. Like they don't usually talk about the good things about a person, they immediately get shot by the police, you get killed by the police, they immediately start putting out bad things about you, like it was your fault that you got murdered.

But my brother, he loves people, he loves people. And he was such a comedian. He will always tell jokes, and we will always have a good time, every time we were together. He was a great father. He had three boys, he has nieces, and he has a niece and nephews that he was always doing stuff with. And he was always around. And I just feel so sad that the kids don't get to experience him anymore. It's been really hard for our family, just knowing the type of person that he was, the things that we had to go through.

I just really wish that we could just help hold the police officers accountable for when they do something wrong. And they shouldn't get all of this time to get a story straight, and have time to figure out what's going on. And just like, if any citizen wants to murder somebody, they will get arrested immediately. And they will put them in the interrogation room, and they would be interrogating them immediately after they were arrested. Just like you're gonna do a drug test and do all of that stuff on dead bodies, you need to do the same thing with the police officers, because they do more drugs and do more bad things than the citizens that they claim they are here to protect.

So I just want everybody, please continue to support our family because it's not over. The officer he was indicted. But he hasn't been. He hasn't been convicted. He hasn't been convicted yet. And he needs to be convicted.”

Ryan Stokes

Narene Stokes, Ryan’s mother, also shared her son’s story:

“Okay, first of all, I would like to apologize to you, and ask for your forgiveness. Because this is my very first time here. I would like for you to accept my apology and forgive me, because I don't know where I've been. Good job in calling Ryan's name out. And that's all good. Because I'm here for you. And with you for the same reason. Thank you.

Okay, Ryan was killed on July 28, 2013. He was 24 years old, down here at Power and Light to have himself a nice time, as most young men and young ladies do. And then there is some kind of confusion, some kind of altercation. And they say, Ryan had a gun, wouldn't put it down. So they had to shoot him. But it was a lie.

You know, any mother's gonna go view her son, my only son. Now this is my baby boy. They are gonna view him, and he's shot in the back. How do you call that justifiable? When you shoot a man in the back and he don't have a gun.

So it's gone on eight years for me. Eight years since Ryan's been killed. Murdered. It's just not right. It's not right. How they're killing our young men? And think they can get away with it. And I mean, "they" when I say "they", I mean the police. I mean, the mayor of this city. I mean, the governor. This is happening right here in Kansas City. And they ain't trying to do a doggone thing about it. They just want us to be silent. They want us to sweep things under the rug. And we're not going to do that. We see now; we're standing here for a reason, right? We want justice, we need change.”

Donnie Sanders

Reshonda Sanders, the sister of Donnie Sanders, talked about how her brother was killed during a traffic stop. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker recently said she would not press charges against the officer involved.

“My brother did not deserve to die. No matter how they try and portray him or make him look like he was the bad guy. He was only trying to drive home. That was a you know, one thing I just don't understand.

I still will never understand how he was going southbound on Prospect, and the officer was coming northbound on Prospect, and what made him make a U-turn to come after my brother. I don't know. He literally made a U-turn and followed him and just chased him.

My brother's scared you know? I don't understand, you know, like, he jumped out the truck and ran. I don't understand it. The opposite side was in any type of harm while my brother run in front of you. (He was) caught with a gun...but (he was) running from (the officer).

...How is it that they can hear him supposedly saying what he was saying (on the dash cam footage) if that my brother was killed around the corner? I don't understand that. But you said you ain't got no evidence (to prosecute).”

Travis Griffin

Travis Griffin’s uncle, who did not give his name, also spoke about the injustice and lack of accountability in policing in Kansas City:

“I've never seen anywhere in the world where taxpayers pay to die like in Kansas City, Missouri. On January 8 2018 my nephew was shot and killed by KCPD. He made a flaw one day, and he was a good kid. His flaw was a fatal one: he ran from police. That encounter cost him six shots in the back. One in the arm, one in the leg. When the witness account said that he was not a threat to KCPD, video evidence said the same. Yet still nothing has come of this officer who shot my nephew in the back six times and killing him. It's been tough for my little sister to even speak up.

I just don't know what to say. It's terrible, tragic. And it's got to come to an end. You know, we all love each other while we're here and tell each other often. Because in the blink of an eye, it can all be over with. You know, my nephew was a good kid, but that one flaw was a fatal one.”

Faith Leaders Express Support

Several faith leaders also spoke at Friday’s rally, praising the efforts of Friday Night Protest and calling for greater accountability and change in the Kansas City Police Department.

“What you've done has made a difference, what you've done where it has made a difference, and it cannot be unnoticed, it cannot be covered up. Now they did it, they did it because of some lives, some brothers’ and sisters’ lost or taken when they shouldn't have been, but at the hands of KCPD,” said Reverend Nia Chandler of St. Mark Union Church. “They did it because they're seeking justice that still hasn't been realized. Because you have people that want to put things under the rug, cover things up, not tell the truth. Well, the devil is a liar, because the truth does rise to the light, and anything that (is) hidden will become unhidden.”

“Steve and Win, bless you, and all of those partners who are with you. And the persecutions you face, the difficulties you face, because of the stance that you take--don't even get it twisted. Your God will have the last word in Kansas City,” said Dr. Vernon Howard of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Kansas City. “A truth (about) a police, a law enforcement agency that cares more about a statue, about a monument than about the Black lives that it takes. Kansas City is a major metropolitan area that allows for an apartheid like police system by other folks in another city in the state."

Continued Push for Change

Troy Robertson of Team HONK, who has reported multiple instances of being brutalized and targeted by police officers, stressed the need to continue to work for justice. “We have to make a change, and I stand there, hold the signs out for peace honk, honk for unity, honk for justice; for these kids. You see what I'm saying? We got to stand up for these kids.”

Robertson was arrested later that evening and held for over 24 hours with a bond of over $4,500. Alleged citations were DWI, property damage, driving slowly and setting fire in a public street. Robertson said the arrest came after he left the event, and that officers forced him off the road, causing him to crash his car and break his wrist.

Young and Jamieson stressed the importance of continuing to fight for justice for those who have been brutalized or targeted by KCPD, including Robertson. They plan to continue their protest next Friday, June 11, at 6 p.m.

Published on: 6/9/2021